While we did not think that we could sign up, show up, and generate business, there are many separate factors that we must consider to make sure that our first big exhibition is a success.
Media: As a company that has always focused on word-of-mouth referrals and marketing for our business, we have not developed a robust set of marketing materials. Thus, we needed to come up with our exhibit backdrop, fliers, press releases, and determine what it was that we were going to display. If you can afford it, it is worthwhile to use a couple of different resources. First, a graphic designer. Find someone who has designed for exhibits before and who has a good understanding of your target audience. If your reaction to this is “what is my target audience,” then you have more work to do before you can get to this stage. Second, a copy writer. If you cannot capture the essence of what you do and get the reader of your materials to want to engage in further conversations in 20 words or less, rewrite it. Most technical people do not have the language savvy and skills to do this; a few hours with a professional copywriter will help you. We have used Proofrock Copy and been very happy with their results.
Message: You cant be everything to everyone. Even if you offer several packages, trying to sell all of them will likely result in failing to close on potential deals because of lack of focus. We have chosen to focus on two main areas: strategic engagements and Agile Development training. The strategic engagements are designed for our clients to develop the appropriate roadmap for getting their IT systems to the point to where they can provide the information that decision makers need to drive business forward. Agile Development training is, for the most part, self-explanatory. Its still more of a buzzword than a practice, and many teams have tried and failed to incorporate Agile because of lack of appropriate training and methodologies. While we have other offerings, such as laboratory information management systems and content management systems, we would rather focus on 200 of the 3,000 attendees than cast a wide net and hope to snag a random hit.
Extras: Just signing up for an exhibit and renting/buying your exhibit standup materials doesnt cover everything. Dont forget that youre going to have to rent carpet, trash cans, cleaning crew, podia, tables, chairs, etc. If youve never done an exhibition before, network with people who have to see what their costs were. If you cant find someone who has, then take your estimates and double them. Additionally, dont spend yourself down to nearly nothing to exhibit. There will be follow-up work and engagements (one hopes) after the convention, and you will need the capital to fund your follow-up sales efforts and initial engagement work.
Were going to have some exciting things at OSCON. We look forward to meeting all of you there!